Book review – Dark angels: How writing releases creativity at work

Anna Gunning

Gunning Marketing

Have you heard of John Simmons?Book cover - Dark Angels: How Writing Unleashes Creativity at Work

In addition to being a prolific business and fiction writer, he’s founder of 26, the writers’ organisation (which you should check out if you haven’t already).

I just finished reading his new book, Dark Angels: How Writing Releases Creativity at Work. It’s not a how-to writing guide and it doesn’t cover the fundamentals of copywriting. It’s a more advanced book on injecting creativity into your commercial writing.

John starts with the premise that “verbal shackles” hold people prisoner in commercial writing

This means we instinctively think the business context means writing has to be formal and constrained.

And this misconception is where his intriguing title comes from.

John proposes that in literature like Milton’s Paradise Lost, the dark angels (like Satan) are the most interesting characters. They’re not symbols of evil. Rather, they captivate you with their extraordinary powers of resourcefulness, invention and persuasion.

In business writing, you need to be resourceful, inventive and persuasive to captivate your reader

To do this you must engage the reader’s emotions, which is why you need to free your creativity and express personality.

As copywriters, we know this is true, but it still takes effort and practice and continual improvement.

John then goes on to review creativity in short-form and long-form writing, and it’s all valuable advice. But the second half is what makes this book different than so many other writing books.

John gives us 3 chapters in diary form.

The first is his approach to a project. As part of the brief, he had to keep a diary of his creative process, and it’s both fascinating and inspiring to read how his synapses connect and his thought processes travel to reach the final work.

The second diary chapter is an account of his Dark Angels training course, discussing the exercises the group undertakes to find those nuggets of creativity they can bring back to their offices.

And the third is John’s diary for a week. You see the array of random lines and extracts he notes for inspiration, and read his thoughts on topics like briefing processes and writing habits.

So if you’re looking for a writing book to take on your summer holiday, this is an ideal choice

You’ll bask in John’s melodious tone and take away insight to fuel your creativity.

Connect with me over at Gunning Marketing, on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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